In-Group Favoritism, Out-Group Animosity, and Joint Conflict: The Role of Ambivalence in Response to Joint Sponsorships: An Abstract
Marketers often attempt to influence consumer attitudes by sponsoring properties for which their target consumers have an affinity. Building on the premises of balance theory (Heider, 1958), there is a liking transfer where the positive feelings toward the sponsored property carry over to the sponsoring brand. Research findings have also confirmed fans’ tendency to show an out-group negative bias through unfavorable responses to sponsors of rival teams (Bee & Dalakas, 2015; Bergkvist, 2012; Dalakas & Levin, 2005; Grohs et al., 2015). When only the favorite or only the rival team is involved in a sponsorship, it is easy for the consumer to respond to that sponsorship. The positive feelings toward the favorite team generate positive feelings toward the sponsor whereas the negative feelings toward a rival team lead to negative feelings toward their sponsor. However, when a sponsor partners with both teams, it creates a more challenging situation for the consumer. This study builds on the existing research and extends it by also assessing response to sponsorship of both a favored and a rival team. Moreover, we examine how ambivalence may influence consumer response to the different partnerships (in-group, out-group, or both). Data were collected from 162 students affiliated with a NCAA Division-1 institution known for its long-standing rivalry with another university in the state. Conducted in an online lab setting, participants were told that they would be viewing and evaluating prototype advertising. They were randomly directed to the one of the three ads containing the manipulation and then responded to an online questionnaire. Each ad featured the same generic color image, word, and image placement and the same fictitious energy bar brand. Team logos (favored, rival, or both logos) and the following statement were used to manipulate team affiliation: “Proud partner of the team (favored or rival) or teams (favored and rival).” A key finding of this study was that for responses to sole sponsorships it was only consumer identification that mattered leading to positive responses to sponsor of favored team and negative responses to sponsor of rival team. However, ambivalence was the best predictor of responses to joint sponsorships. Therefore, the results suggest consumer ambivalence can play an important role on how sponsorship information is processed and how attitudes are developed.